Summer Travel Will Lead to More Personal Injury Claims, Including COVID-19 Cases

The IPE Team

We've all been looking forward to a post-pandemic world with a real summer. And statistics show that for most Americans, that summer is here. Just a few months ago, over 1 million people passed through U.S. airports, signaling a busy summer was ahead. Then in June, cruise lines started back up.

As many personal injury lawyers know, vacations, activities, and other summer travel typically lead to more personal injury claims. And with more personal injury cases comes an increased need for personal injury attorneys.

This summer, however, injury lawyers will be faced with a new challenge: COVID-19 personal injury claims.

Increased Summer Travel Means More Personal Injury Cases

Last year, personal injury lawyers experienced a lull in new cases because most Americans were staying in their homes. Vacations were canceled, weddings were delayed, and spending decreased overall as families grappled with unique changes they never expected. Now, business is back and so are vacations. In June 2021, Allianz Partners USA issued its 13th annual Vacation Confidence Index. This study predicted that Americans would spend more this year than they have in the study's entire 13-year history. In fact, this summer, Americans are expected to spend more than $150 billion on vacation. According to the study, this will be 50% more than vacation spending in 2019.

Unfortunately, with more travel and activity comes more opportunities for injury. If you are a personal injury attorney, you'll want to be ready for an increase in common summer personal injury claims...

Common Summer Personal Injury Claims

 

  • Bicycle Accidents. Both kids and adults will be back on the roads this summer. With travel on the roads increasing, bicyclists will be exposed to higher chances of injury.
  • Boating Accidents. Boating is a popular, but sometimes dangerous activity. Boating accidents may include boat crashes, but injuries will more likely result from the activities like waterskiing or inner tubing.
  • Car and RV Accidents. More people than ever are traveling by car this year. Many families concerned about airline safety and flight cancellations opted for car travel in 2020, causing a surge in RV sales and rentals. Now, it seems that this newfound interest in road-tripping is here to stay.
  • Fair Ride Accidents. States are expected to continue hosting their yearly county fairs this summer. Fair ride accidents occur often. Recently, they've received much more attention after a troubling video of a malfunctioning fair ride in Michigan went viral.
  • Motorcycle Accidents. Motorcyclists ride much more during the summer in states where they may be more limited by the seasons. With increased travel across the US, more motorcyclists are back on the road and more likely to experience accidents.
  • Pool or Slide Accidents. Families are headed back to public pools and water parks, which have long been considered a common source of summer personal injury claims.
  • Slip and Fall Claims. Slip and fall cases of all kinds will be up now that people are leaving their own homes to visit friends, restaurants, and other businesses.
  • Trampoline and Other Structures. Children are injured every year on trampolines and other structures, such as outdoor swings or playsets.

 

Personal Injury Claims Related to COVID-19 Exposure

Liability for COVID-19 exposure and infection has been a hot topic since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown. In fact, the law firm Hunter Andrews Kurth reported that since March 2020, over 11,000 COVID-19 related lawsuits have been filed in the United States. Although these lawsuits span a variety of practice areas, many are personal injury, wrongful death, and workplace injury claims.

Although COVID-19 cases have dropped overall, more than half of Americans are still not fully vaccinated. Reuters recently reported that low vaccination rates can lead to a resurgence of COVID-19, which will likely lead to more COVID-19 personal injury lawsuits.

Common COVID-19 Personal Injury Claims

Although legal experts aren't sure how strong COVID-19 personal injury claims will ultimately be, there are certainly many of them being filed this year. Some of the more common COVID-19 personal injury claims include:
 

  • Malpractice claims related to hospital care, including wrongful death.
  • Workplace injury claims for failing to follow PPE guidelines, such as not requiring employees to wear a mask.
  • Workplace injury claims for failing to send an employee home after they developed symptoms of COVID-19 or tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Workplace injury claims for allowing employees to return less than the required 14-day quarantine period.
  • Premises liability for COVID-19 infections.
  • Product liability claims for COVID-19 infections.

Challenges Specific to COVID-19 Personal Injury Claims

Proving Causation in COVID-19 Liability Claims

How do you prove that an injured party contracted COVID-19 from a specific place or specific product? This question is stumping many highly skilled personal injury lawyers. The fact is, proving liability for COVID-19 infections is difficult because it is hard to prove causation. This is in part because COVID-19 is airborne, and the virus also expires after a certain amount of time.

Premises liability claims against nursing homes and cruise ships have trended upwards in great part because they don’t have this challenge. That is, it's easier to prove that a person contracted COVID-19 while on a premises where everyone infected was quarantined on that premises. And, because nobody could visit nursing homes or cruise ships, those infected were never exposed to the outside world. Together, these facts help prove that any exposure to COVID-19 more likely than not occurred on the premises.

Immunity Laws

Some states have passed immunity laws for health care workers, businesses, and employers. These laws will inevitably make it more difficult for injured parties to recover damages caused by COVID-19 infection. For example, New York passed a law that granted civil and criminal liability immunity to health care workers engaged in diagnosing and treating COVID-19 patients. Although recently narrowed, what remains in place will still prevent many COVID-19 medical malpractice claims from moving forward.

Also last year, Wisconsin passed a law that granted businesses immunity from civil liability for death or injury resulting from acts or omissions related to COVID-19. This liability protection does not apply if the act or omission involves reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct. Thus, even those who could prove that they were both exposed to COVID-19 and infected by that exposure may not be able to recover damages.

The PREP Act Prevents Lawsuits Tied to Vaccines

The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, grants immunity to pharmaceutical companies, health care workers, and other "covered persons" engaged in the manufacturing, distribution, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines. This immunity does not apply to "willful misconduct", but it will block most personal injury claims related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Conclusion

Although 2020 was likely one of the slowest years for personal injury lawyers, current trends show that Americans are traveling more, and doing more than ever before. Injury lawyers should expect to be quite busy this summer, as injury claims of all kinds are predictably on the rise.

At the same time, COVID-19 personal injury claims will present new challenges for injury lawyers looking to represent those who were infected by COVID-19. Since COVID-19 injury claims are new to everyone, changes to the legal landscape will likely come soon.

Want to learn more about personal injury claims?

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